Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 1 – ‘Section 106 Money’

 

Please Sir, I want more crappy cycle infrastructure.

 

Yesterday evening I attended a local cycle campaign meeting where we were lucky enough to have the County Cycling Officer present. She kept quoting ‘Section 106 monies’ for cycling schemes as there clearly isn’t a direct budget for cycling at the moment.

In case you may have attended cycle forums or meetings yourself and heard this phrase without fully understanding what it means, or you’re curious to find out how cycling budgets really work, I’ll try and define it below.

Wikipedia Definition

‘Section 106 (S106) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority (LPA) to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission. The obligation is termed a ‘Section 106 Agreement’.

These agreements are a way of delivering or addressing matters that are necessary to make a development acceptable in planning terms. They are increasingly used to support the provision of services and infrastructure, such as highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.

..Matters agreed as part of a S106 must be:

  • relevant to planning
  • necessary to make the proposed development acceptable in planning terms
  • directly related to the proposed development
  • fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development 
  • reasonable in all other respects.

A council’s approach to securing benefits through the S106 process should be grounded in evidence-based policy. ‘

Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Definition

It allows a Council to shift its already meagre cycling budget to other more ‘pressing’ things (like pothole repair) with the promise of lots of Section 106 money for new facilities. Thus cycling infrastructure in many Local Authorities is at the mercy of pockets of cash dotted around the area, linked to where new developments are. If you’re lucky, they will try and build facilities that tie in with their ‘Cycling Strategy’, which might be an overly long, verbose document that’s woefully out of date  as they couldn’t commit funding or resource to update it.

When you start asking the Local Authority as to why you are just relying on Section 106 money they may launch into Middle Management spiel about cuts and times being hard. When you point out that cycling budgets were miniscule when times were good, there usually follows a bit of an awkward silence. If you are in a campaign group, the term ‘Section 106’ may have been used a lot recently, particularly when the recession first kicked in and the Local Authorities realised that they had a lot of capital tied up in Icelandic banks.

This type of funding is piecemeal at best and is just one of the wonderful reasons why we have the poorly designed, sketchy and dangerous infrastructure that exists currently.

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10 thoughts on “Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 1 – ‘Section 106 Money’”

  1. An alternative definition of S.106 money is “planning permission bribes”. The money is paid from rich developers to poor councils as part of the granting of planning permission for new developments.

    Of course bribes are not good, so they’re supposed to be direct compensation for the negative impact of new development. Quite why the council can’t require new developments to have positive impact, as part of their design, I don’t know.

    For example:

    Council (to Tesco): No you can’t build a store on our green fields, it’ll create traffic chaos.
    Tesco (to Council): We appreciate that our new megastore will generate a few additional car journeys: would you like some money in compensation?
    Council (to Tesco): That’ll do nicely, thank you. We might manage to add a little more to that cycle route network we started 15 years ago. That’ll cheer the cyclists up no end!

    Then, a little later, the pot of S106 money is divided up between worthy projects, as the council sees fit. Of course the link should remain between the new development’s negative impact and the spending of the S106 money to compensate, but the money is often spent on other things: the “directly related to the proposed development” requirement is interpreted quite flexibly.

    The problem with funding cycling almost entirely from S106 money, as WSCC does, is that there is very little of this cash available. Especially when the recession means that large new developments are few and far between.

  2. Attending a West Sussex Cycle Forum is bit like appearing on that vintage ITV quizshow ‘3-2-1’ every Saturday, but knowing that you’re only ever going to win Dusty Bin.

    It seems a little bit ironic that the future of sustainable transport is dependent on sometimes unsustainable development.

    The next WS Forum is going to be in Worthing. Bring it on!

  3. From what I could tell when I lived in Cambridge, S106 money was more often than not spent on things to benefit the development. This is, of course, quite compatible with “necessary to make the proposed development acceptable in planning terms, directly related to the proposed development.” The result was S106 money being spent on roads which served the development, arranged as the developers would like them to be. As such, it was hardly a perk for the local community at all.

    The same ideas, of developers being required to put aside funds for local infrastructure, are also in place here in NL, but they go much further. For instance, a new housing development near us had to fund a cycle route directly to the centre of the city (this one) as well as links in other directions, but also provide multiple recreational cycle paths stretching many km into the countryside in different directions, and even such things as dog walking paths. It’s also normal for such developments to have to put a pot of money aside to cover all expected maintenance for the next 5/10 years (I’m not sure which) which means that the appearance of a new development doesn’t place a burden on the local council.

    There’s nothing really wrong with getting money from developers like this, but they do have to be asked for the right things. And you can’t rely on it as a sole source of funds. We also have, of course, about 30 euros per capita each year for new infrastructure. Such things as bicycle parking, school cycle training and maintenance come from other budgets.

    1. As you may have read in earlier comments, counties such as West Sussex only rely on Section 106. Apparently, at an earlier West Sussex forum earlier this year, cyclists were told that the cycling budget had effectively been blown on pothole repair after the harsh winter we had. As far as I understand, a problem is that there is no proper agency for cycling – the deal for 106 money is done between council and developer and the first time there will be any input from cycling groups is when the works have already been designed (no cycling input), signed off and the work already programmed. It is a very sketchy way to advance sutainable transport.

      By the way, I first encountered Dutch common sense when I attended a lecture by Landscape Architect Adriaan Geuze at the RIBA in London. He is Principal of West 8, based in Rotterdam. He described designing the landscape for a housing development being built fairly close to their offices. Instead of just installing the scheme, they gave pairs of wellington boots to residents moving in so they could work where people wanted to walk first. If you’re going to design and build a nice landscape you don’t want paths trodden through your work as a short cut. Genius.

      My wife and I want to move to the Netherlands if we could be of any use there!

  4. Around our neck of the woods, new developments such as supermarkets usually do no more for cyclists than install a row of Sheffield stands – whereas a few on main roads, where installing a new junction outside, install a few token cycle lanes & advanced stop lines, which if truth be told are only of use for filtering past a few vehicles in a queue.

    It’s a shame really, but the councils seem as hell bent on car use as the developers.

    1. Supermarkets will always be car-centric as they believe you can cram more into a car and that motorists spend more.

      The bicycle favours more local shops, I’ve found. People don’t want to compete with car-choked out of town bypasses and ring roads so the pitiful infrastructure that you mention rarely gets used. We need to focus on getting the town centres right for cycling and walking. Worthing already provides a decent amount of Sheffield stands and they are usually choc-full on a Saturday which should be a very good indicator for shop owners and councils.

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